The prompt to which I respond here is in the Official ACT Prep Guide 2016-2017. You can find a link to it here.
Here's the response:
Event attendance has been declining steadily over the last several decades, as the essay prompt states. My response to the essay prompt is that while all of the three provided perspectives are at least partially correct, my perspective on the issues agrees mostly with Perspectives Two and Three.
Perspective One is a statement to the effect of “Declining attendance is because it is more convenient to watch remotely on TV, Internet, or to listen to on the radio. However, remote watching or listening keeps us isolated from each other, whereas live attendance brings us together.”
My response to Perspective One is as follows: While convenience certainly is a factor in the choice of media event viewing versus internet viewing, television viewing, or radio listening, the factors of proximity and expense also figure into that choice. To say a person in the U.S. chooses to watch an event in China on television rather than attending it because it is “convenient” is akin to calling World War II “a minor skirmish.” It is a ridiculous understatement. Similarly, parents raising children are going to choose to save their money and support their families rather than spend $250 per ticket to see Roger Waters live in concert, no matter how much they like Pink Floyd’s and Roger Waters’ music. It would be irresponsible for someone on a limited income to fritter away money needed for necessaries on luxuries such as music concerts.
Finally, it is unclear that most music concerts, live plays, motion pictures, or sporting events allow for much meaningful interaction between the audience members. It is extremely rude to talk during movies and plays. Many music concerts feature music played so loud that a person has to scream for the person in the next seat to hear him or her. Most sports fans do not wish to participate in conversations with the fans sitting near them at athletic events. While I have had some in-depth conversations with people I’ve met at concerts, those were the rare exception, not the “rule.” I have attended “Q&A” sessions before or after plays and movies, where the audience could ask questions of the director, but again, those are rare. The Internet is actually a much better place for discussions of any topic, including music, theater, film, and sports, or any other live performance, than the performance itself.
Perspective Two essentially states that people don’t attend live events because it’s expensive and they can’t afford to attend them.
My response to Perspective Two is the following: Certainly, people avoid attending professional sports events, music concerts, and live theater because they are often exorbitantly expensive. A single NFL football ticket can cost $100 or more; the same applies to major league baseball and NBA tickets. Popular music concerts routinely cost $70.00 or more after service fees are added; some can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars (e.g., tickets to see Roger Waters, the Coachella festival, or the Desert Trip festival). Events held in remote locations, such as Coachella or the Desert Trip festival also involve spending money on travel, food, and lodging, as well as taking time off from work or school. Naturally, many people will opt to see “live streams” or recorded versions of the music, performance, or athletic event when live attendance is so expensive and time-consuming.
Perspective Three states that television, the Internet and social media allow people to interact remotely, and allow more people to view share their perspectives on events than ever before.
My response to Perspective Three is: While television has allowed many more people to see events than could ever have fit into a sports stadium or a theater, it does not allow people to interact. However, with the advent of the Internet, social media such as Twitter and Facebook allow people from around the world not only to view events they could never attend in real life, but to chat and comment about them with people they would never meet in real life – that is, in person, rather than through the Internet. A person in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania can chat about the Olympics with another person in Adelaide, Australia. These perspectives can be posted so people can comment at later times, even years later, if they so desire. This broadens the horizon of human interaction to widths never dreamed of before.
My perspective is that while convenience certainly is a factor in people’s decisions to view events remotely rather than attending them “live,” Perspective One’s statement that remote “attendance” leads to increased social isolation does not necessarily follow, since as Perspective Three states, the Internet allows remote viewers to interact with one another in ways never dreamed of before. Similarly, Perspective One is flawed in that it assumes most people have the time and money to attend expensive concerts, plays, and professional sports events. Given that an outing for a family of four to a local professional ball game can easily cost hundreds of dollars, that is not a valid assumption. Perspective Two addresses the economic reality that is one cause of declining event attendance, a valid point which is completely ignored by Perspective One.
I agree with both Perspective Two and with Perspective Three, which emphasizes that Internet and other electronic media coverage allow people to converse with each other regarding the event, both “in real time,” and before and after the event, allowing for a broader level of interaction between audience members, and possibly even the performers/athletes/other actors (presumably before or after the event). Mass media coverage also allows for a world-wide audience for an event that would have a limited number of spectators in real life – even the largest stadiums hold only about 100,000 people. The 1969 Woodstock rock festival had an attendance of roughly 500,000 people, effectively creating the third most populous city in New York State in a farmer’s field, and was characterized by chaos (there was basically no infrastructure to support that many people on a farm in rural upstate New York), whereas the Internet could handle a viewing audience of millions, if not billions, of people.
For the reasons I have stated above, I agree with Perspectives Two and Three, that declining event attendance is primarily the result of the cost of live event attendance and the opportunity for a more intellectually interactive experience through the Internet, and disagree with Perspective One to the extent that it attributes declining event attendance only to convenience and assumes that remote viewing causes social isolation. Remote event viewing through the Internet has led to a new era of intellectual interaction that was not possible in previous eras, a net positive development for this society and the world in general.
Author: John Linneball Who did you think? ;-)
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